By Katelyn Newman
ANNAPOLISWith standing room only, the battle over the ridesharing Uber bill began in the state Senate Finance committee Tuesday.
Sponsored by Senator Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore, the bill would keep power in the hands of ridesharing companies to conduct their own drivers background checks and vehicle safety inspections rather than require state oversight.
It competes with a bill proposed by the states Public Service Commission that would hold companies like Uber and Lyft to the same standards that state taxi and limo drivers face.
Joined by fellow taxi operators, Baltimore Yellow Cab driver Andy Tedla, 62, said he opposes Fergusons bill because it gives ridesharing companies an unfair advantage with fewer regulations in the transportation market.
Ive been regulated for the last 23 years, it doesnt bother me, said Tedla. We are not afraid of competition, but competition should be on the same playground.
In response to opposition, Lyft driver John Morfaw, 54, said that these ridesharing companies enhance the free market for transportation.
I get to move people around in a cost-effective way, said Morfaw, who has worked for Lyft since November. I really support (the bill) because they need to get qualified people to drive, move people around, and they should be in compliance with the law, too.
Around 100 drivers and customers of the ridesharing companies came to the Capitol to show their support for the bill and the services of Uber and Lyft.
Its very convenient, said Uber customer Jennifer Winfrey, 30, from Prince Georges County. Ive had experiences where waiting for a cab, its taken almost an hour just to get a cab ride home, where as with Uber its taken five, maybe 10 minutes at most.
If passed, SB868 would go into effect on July 1, 2015.